raceAhead: Why You Need to Understand Black Lives Matters

July 14, 2016, 1:11 PM UTC


Last week, ethnographer and writer Christina Xu, and a growing cadre of friends from around the world, exemplified what it means to be an ally. They also gave us an extraordinary opportunity to look at the world through another culture’s eyes.

It started with a simple tweet.


Asian-Americans who support BLM, we need to get ahead of our community organizing another pro-Liang rally. Talk to your families today.


Xu, along with other young Asian-American activists, created a crowd-sourced letter on Google docs, specifically designed to help explain their support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a way that would be culturally relevant to their families – many of which are anchored by immigrant elders with wrenching experiences of racism of their own.


Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother:

We need to talk.

You may not have grown up around people who are Black, but I have. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my classmates and teammates, my roommates, my family. Today, I’m scared for them.


Xu was particularly concerned that the impulse to support the officer who shot Philando Castile – and who had been initially identified by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, as “Chinese,” -would spark public divisions within the Asian community.

It’s happened before. After Peter Liang, a young NYPD officer shot and killed an African American man, Akai Gurley, many Asian American supporters rallied to his side. The result was confusion and inter-generational conflict.

Xu put out a call for help translating the letter into all relevant native languages, so it would better received by the loved ones reading it.

Within the first 24 hours, hundreds of people accessed the open Google document to edit, check facts, translate and make suggestions. There was only one troll. “What internet sorcery is this?” Xu joked.

The letter did an extraordinary job in many areas. First, the authors used facts about black people and the police to help make their case. Second, they made sure to specifically acknowledge the experiences of their relatives, and asked them to consider how that experience is related to, but different from, the systemic racism that black Americans face. And finally, it emphasized love and gratitude for the lives they’ve been allowed to live because of the earlier sacrifices made on their behalf.

Heartwarming yes. But there is real research to suggest that this approach will actually make a huge difference.

For more, click here.


Share your stories: raceAhead@newsletters.fortune.com

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